The Laois dual star running a London Marathon with a difference in aid of ##doitfordan
By Damian Dolan
As if running a marathon wasn’t hard enough. Laois dual star Cahir Healy plans to cover the 26 miles while scoring 2000 hurling and football points, as he raises money for ‘Do It For Dan’ – the fundraising drive to send little Laois boy Dan Donoher to America for urgent treatment.
The son of former Laois footballers Niall and Aisling Donoher (nee Quigley), Dan was diagnosed on 6 December with a rare genetic neuromuscular disease called Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA) Type 1 and Scoliosis.
Dan celebrated his first birthday on 28 march, but without treatment his life expectancy is 18-24 months.
It’s a story which has caught the public’s imagination in Ireland – the likes of Conor McGregor, Colm Cooper and Seamus Coleman joining the legions of people who have lent their support.
So much so that last Friday, the ‘Do It For Dan’ campaign were able to announce that they’d reached their $2.1m target to enable Dan to get the gene therapy treatment (Zolgensma) he needs, and which is only available in America.
An incredible feat given the fundraising drive was only launched on 5 March, and in light of the Covid-19 pandemic which curtailed some fundraising initiatives.
The Portlaoise man has already raised more than £8,400 towards his initial £20,000 goal.
That will now be capped at £7,500. All money donated above that amount will be split between the NHS to acquire personal protective equipment (PPE), and Midlands Regional Hospital Portlaoise PPE Appeal.
Cahir will undertake his ‘2000 for 2000 Marathon’ fundraiser on 17 May at Old Deer Park in Richmond, where he lives.
“It’s a worthy cause; it’s a child’s life and how do you out a price on that?,” Cahir told the Irish World. “The treatment will prolong Dan’s life and give him quality of life for many years.
“Niall texted me when word of my challenge got out and he thanked me. I had a little chat with him and he said Dan is happy and doing okay at the minute.”
Cahir added: “I’m blown away by how much has been raised – it’s unbelievable how everyone has rallied around.”
It’s a campaign close to Cahir’s heart – he played alongside Niall for Laois Under 14s, back in 1999, and all the way up to senior.
A successful age group, there’s a “strong bond” between that bunch of players he says.
They won Leinster at Under 14, 15, 16, Minor and Under 21, as well as an All Ireland football Minor in 2003.
It was that “strong bond” and a sense of “loyalty” that compelled Cahir to want to do something to help.
Wowwww look at that bubble!
Dan really does love his bubbles 💛
Thank you. pic.twitter.com/ZHw2ZzZwDB
— do it for Dan 20 (@DoItForDan201) April 29, 2020
“Niall would have been around for a lot of my good memories of playing underage, and I don’t think I played a senior game for Laois where Niall wasn’t on the panel,” he says.
“There’s a GAA person in need, so you do whatever you can to help.”
Cahir estimates his challenge will take him a full eight hours – no mean feat for someone who underwent medial collateral ligament (MCL) surgery in March.
It was his fourth knee operation in less than three years, having previously done the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in both knees, as well as the MCL on his left knee.
“This was only a partial MCL tear so the surgery this time was just to remove the cartilage. I should be getting frequent surgery points at the clinic.”
We will never be able to thank you all enough. Our hearts are filled with so much happiness.
It takes a village to raise a child, it takes a community to save one.
— do it for Dan 20 (@DoItForDan201) April 26, 2020
He’d liked to have completed his ‘2000 for 2000 Marathon’ challenge sooner, but he pushed it back a few weeks to make sure his knee was up to 42 kilometres (26 miles).
Simply choosing a less physically demanding challenge just wasn’t an option for Cahir.
“If I want people to give to his cause, I’m going to have to do something to earn it,” he said.
“If I’m going to my friends who live over here, and might not know much about GAA or who Niall is, I felt I had to do something that would draw them in, and be worth them supporting.”
The idea for the unique points scoring marathon challenge came by accident. Cahir came across the ‘Do It For Dan’ campaign at the start of March and made a donation.
He then received a phone call from a member of the fundraising committee to let him know of their plans to garner support for Dan from the Irish, GAA and business communities over here. Cahir was happy to assist in any way he could.
Covid-19 scuppered those plans, though, and left Cahir searching for a way to do more.
“I was still thinking, how can I do my bit to raise some money for them – to play my little part,” he said.
Still wanting to put a “GAA slant” on any fundraising idea, after much brain-racking he came up with a challenge which poked a little fun at his own expense.
“I played most of my life at corner back – in football and hurling – and anyone who knows me, knows points scoring is not a skill I’m particularly adept at,” he said.
But the marathon side of things wasn’t originally part of the plan – it was only when Cahir realised just how much distance he was covering, toing and froing to collect the balls, that he added it to the challenge.
Using his GPS to clock the distance covered when he did a dry run, and using the rugby goalposts at Old Deer Park, he ran 5km in an hour.
He therefore estimates it will take him approximately eight hours to complete 40km.
If there’s any miles left to do after he’s completed the points scoring part of the challenge, he’ll make up the shortfall with a few laps around Old Deer Park.
In recent weeks the ‘Do It For Dan’ fundraising campaign suddenly gained huge momentum.
Kerry star Colm Cooper donated a shirt and a pair of boots, while Conor McGregor and Republic of Ireland captain Seamus Coleman both donated. All of which put the campaign in the spotlight and drew media attention.
“It just exploded; Laois GAA club Park-Ratheniska did a 400km run and other clubs in Laois followed that. Portlaoise raised about €40,000,” said Cahir.
“The publicity around it has been amazing. It’s better than Niall and Aisling ever imagined.”
A search for ‘Do It For Dan’ on Gofundme immediately brings up fundraiser after fundraiser – clubs and individuals all just looking to do whatever they can to help.
🎉🥳🎉 well done to everyone involved. So many people contributing in so many ways, so many people working their socks off behind the scenes. Well done.Amazing. #doitfordan
Regarding my own fundraiser, I will update you shortly.https://t.co/nZCV8vf46K https://t.co/BWLFLMcHyY
— Cahir Healy (@CahirH) April 26, 2020
“So many people have chipped in, in their own little way. A little makes a lot,” added Cahir, who says there’s also been some great support from the GAA community in London.
McGovern Park, Ruislip, was even offered to Cahir for his challenge, but in this rare case shooting nets behind the goal are for once more of a hindrance than a help.
“Anyone I’ve contacted here in London since I decided to do this fundraiser has been amazing,” he said.
“St Brendan’s GAA club have been very good – they did a table quiz off their own back which raised £1,100 after hearing about Dan’s story, just to do their little bit.
“And county board chair John Lacey has been really helpful. I can’t thank them all enough.”
To donate to Cahir Healy’s ‘2000 for 2000 Marathon’ challenge in aid of Dan Donoher click HERE.